Two highlights from Digital Society Symposium

Av Even-André Karlsson
Lund's University 350 year anniversary organised a two days Digital Society Symposium - here are two highlights covering "Man and Machine - the Challenge of Collaboration" and "The digital society and democracy"

As part of the celebration of Lund's University 350 year anniversary they organized a two days Digital Society Symposium.

In this post we will summarize two of the highlights from this event.

One keynote speakers was Professor Danica Kragic, KTH, speaking about Man and Machine - the Challenge of Collaboration 

“Are we in the middle of robolution? Intelligent machines and AI are transforming the way we live our lives and bring a huge potential toward automating jobs that are dull, dangerous and dirty for humans. How far has the technology come and what are the challenges we are facing when employing machines in our daily lives?

What are the ethical and moral questions we should address prior to the deployment of such systems?”

Danica gave a good overview of the state of the art in robot research, with several interesting examples:

  • A robot cutting bread, here the macro planning is easy. The challenge is in the micro handling of the softness of the bread and how to move the knife to get a perfect slice. The bread will be different every time.
  • How do we react to robots that make mistakes, i.e. if a human is helping us with something we can adjust as we go along, but how do we manage that with a robot?
  • Can we have a discussion with the robot about the best way of doing things together? They can then learn.
  • How do we know what the robot knows, understands and plans to do. An interesting example was self-driving cars that showed pedestrians that they had observed them by projecting a green beam on the road where the pedestrian could pass.
  • Deep learning, speech and image recognition will improve the robot’s abilities.
  • Robots replacing receptionists and other jobs.
  • Another interesting example was a psychiatric robot that was used to get soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome to talk about their combat experiences. They were more comfortable talking to a robot than a real person as it was less private.
  • We are also now developing body parts that are “stronger” than the original parts. Will it be ethical to replace a body part with a better artificial one?
  • Finally Danica showed some examples of how far we have come with robots that move around.

This robot development will of course need a vaste amount of safety critical software, where Addalot hope to contribute with our process knowledge.

A second highlight was Professor Lawrence Lessig –talking about The digital society and democracy.

This is a bit different compared to the normal Addalot post as it deals with the larger issues in society, which we also think we have a responsibility for as company and engineers.

His talk contained many interesting insights, here are just a few:

  • US politicians use 30-70% of their time to raise money. And a significant amount of this money is provided by a tiny proportion of the population, about 60.000 people. This inevitably means that their decision will favor their donors.
  • Polls today ask people about things that they don't know so much about, as they have not invested much time into fully understanding the issue, and are heavily biased by the news that they see.
  • The news, especially on internet, is also polarized, meaning that the people with the most extreme views get the most attention.
  • This leads to a fragmented and polarized society, and a mutual mistrust between the "elite" and the "people", as well as between people with opposing opinions.

Lessig's saw deliberate polls as one way of counteracting this polarization for important issues. Deliberate polls are more like a jury, where a random selection of people have to listen to the arguments and debate the pros and cons of the issue, before deciding. Each side of the issue is selecting an advocate that will argue for their views. This is now used in e.g. Mongolia for all important decisions, where national issues have a poll size of up to 500 people.

As you see this post is as a bit outside the normal posts here, but we believe that companies also have a responsibility to work for a better society. Addalot is contributing to SOS children's villages, and has also now decided to donate 3000:- a year to Wikipedia, to secure the spreading of accurate and balanced information in our society.

All presentations are available on Youtube.

Even-André Karlsson
Even-André Karlsson